who knew

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart.
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter
there Thy cheerful beams.”

St. Augustine


(a wee ghost crab / Julie Cook / 2021)

Firstly–the other day, I spoke of fiats…and no, sorry, not the car.
(Sorry theearthspins.wordpress.com not cars this time)

Rather I spoke of decrees…earthly decrees vs Heavenly decrees.
As in… man vs God

Man’s decrees, proclamations, ultimatums, judgements…

versus,

God’s decrees…
as in… Word from on High—Commandments,
end of sentence types… as in… because I said so sorts of decrees.

I wrote about Mary’s decree, her words in response to the messenger of God,
Gabriel.
Her decree to Gabriel’s announcement.
Gabriel greeted her by telling her not to fear and that she
was the most blessed amongst all women… for she
had been chosen by God to bear the Savior of all mankind…

Her decree response you ask?…

“May it be so…may Your will, oh Father, be my will, as you would have done
unto me…
May it be so according to thy will.”

So secondly within this tale, there was a person who left me
a comment regarding said post.

This person told me that he often used my posts as part of a devotional.
I was humbled and flattered—however strange as it seems,
I now seem to be a persona non gratis in this person’s book…
simply because I had opted write about man’s selfish and arrogant decrees which
this commentator equated to my stirring the pot against all things leftist.

As in… I had written against Biden’s idea of how to clear out of Afghanistan.
(if it looks like a bafooned duck, it must be a bafooned duck, just saying)

I wrote negatively regarding Obama’s hypocritical birthday bash—elitist
and arrogant when his political party demands that we wee people mask up while they,
the sophisticated, partied hardy into the night with nary a mask in sight.
(I actually wrote about that soirée in length last week but no one said anything
about that post except Oneta who questioned why Martha’s vineyard would
have traffic issues following Obama’s party when churches with more attendees have
no problems whatsoever.)

I wrote about the lunacy of both Madame Pelosi and Mr. Schumer dancing and partying
while it seems the rest of us were /are having multiple humanitarian
crisis across our border as well as around the world—
throw in Tennessee’s flooding tragedies and Haiti’s devastation from the
latest hurricane and is it just me, but dancing and parties just seem /seemed
out of step…no dance puns intended.

And thus I explained that I wanted to showcase the tilted balance found between
man’s decree’s measured against the decrees of God.

Earthly failings of folly vs Heavenly triumphs of Glory.

In my posts, I often compare and contrast.

I do so by exploring whatever latest lunacy is racing through the days
of man versus the steadfast Word of our God.
Man and his superficial fiat debacles…which are the results and repercussions from
earthly commands and the impact they are having on our society which stand in stalk
contrast of the Great I AM

God’s Word vs man’s word.

Which of the two fiats would be everlasting?
Which of the two decrees will fail every time?

And speaking of earthly fiats….

Did you know that a giant rock could be a racist?

This past week, the leadership of The University of Wisconsin caved
to the Woke cries of racism all because of a massive boulder.

It seems that a huge rock, a rock which has graced the campus for well over
100 years and has been deeply rooted as part of the college’s culture
of tradition, was back-hoed up and moved out of the ground…taken far far away.

Back in the early 1920’s students once used a derogatory
term in order to describe the rock. The rock was a black
rock, so I’ll let you figure out the derogatory term.

However, despite no records showing that the term had ever been used after 1925…
it mattered not–man decreed, “off with its head–
or rather, move that rock!

Moving on…

Who knew that Leprechauns were considered offensive and insensitive to certain
groups of folks???
And because Leprechauns are now offensive, the fighting Irish of Notre Dame
need to get rid of their mascot??!!

I am of Irish descent.
I have visited Ireland.
I have traversed those mystical woods and moors where the wee folk
are said to roam.

Ireland is proud of her past– be it mystical, pagan or Christian…it
all melds into making the Emerald Isle a beautiful mystery–

So I dare you to show me one Leprechaun who is opposed to Notre Dame’s mascot
and I’ll share that pot of gold!!!

This is how idiotic we humans have become.

So yes, I compare and contrast.
Man vs God…

I’m going with God every time!!!!

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires,
all of which are governed by the will.
Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the
will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God,
then the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus
the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

St. John of the Cross, p. 259
An Excerpt From
Ascent of Mt. Carmel

“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”

“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”—
“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”


(The Annunciation by Fra Angelico /the Museo Nazionale di San Marco,
Florence, Italy/ 1440–1445 /Julie Cook / 2018)

So I was reading through a few emails yesterday when one in
particular caught my eye.

This particular email opened with a question.
What does the word “fiat” mean.

Well naturally my mind immediately jumped to that of the Italian car
maker of that same name.
When we were teens, my cousin had an old school blue fiat..
that was almost 50 years ago and of course he had to trade it in for
something new and shiny red.

The email I was reading had nothing to do with cars but rather with
the original word that is actually Latin for ‘decree’.

According to dictionary.com the word fiat is
“taken from the Latin meaning “let it be done,”
this word appears in the Latin translation of Genesis,
the first book of the bible, when God proclaimed “let there be light” (fiat lux).
As a result, many early uses of fiat were biblical allusions,
as in John Donne’s 1597 poem The Storm. I
n it he writes that there will be darkness unless
“God say/Another Fiat.”

It was not until the 1630s that English speakers started using fiat
to describe an “authoritative decree,”
often issued by royalty or clergy—two groups that depended on divine
right for their power.

By the turn of the 19th century,
English speakers applied fiat’s meaning to less-than-Godly legal manners.
The phrase “fiat in bankruptcy” gained popularity at this time.
Later that century, the concept of “fiat money,” or currency
that has no intrinsic value,
but that the government gives a value to by declaring it legal tender,
took its place in English-speaking minds.”

Isn’t that interesting…fiat money, currency that has no intrinsic value…
hummm….
kind of like our currency today…just print and spend with nary
a thing to back it.

So it IS true…??!! There really is such a thing as monopoly money!!!!!
I knew it!!!!!

Oh but I digress again, today’s post is not about our Federal Banking System…
but maybe it should be…no, no…I’ll save that notion for another day.

So each day I receive an email devotional from the Catholic company…and no
I am not Catholic, but I probably should be…but again, I digress…
another post, another day..

So like I was saying, I get a daily devotional via email…
I also get a few other emails from this group entitled
“Get Fed, bite-sized faith”.
These little offered nuggets, or bites, are always informative and
thought provoking.

So in yesterday’s “bite” they posed the question, “what does “fiat” mean?”

And since this wasn’t about cars, I was intrigued and read on.

Like the info I listed above, they explained that the word fiat did indeed
refer to a type of decree.
And so naturally when we think of decrees, we usually associate decrees with
authoritative institutions such as governments or leadership.

An “off with their heads” sort of dictatorial decree.
One that sweeps in fear and dread—something that is given as a command,
an order to make the little people, us serfs, quake.

But the fiat that Catholic Company was speaking of was far
from authoritative—rather it was one of humble surrendering.

Here is a portion of what they wrote:
“Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”—
“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”
Certainly no “fiat” before or since has had such drastic consequences
for humanity.

When we refer to Our Lady’s “fiat,” we mean not only the words she spoke,
but also the spiritual attitude verbalized by these words.
This small phrase encapsulates her spirit of obedience,
her profound humility, and her boundless charity.
Unlike so many other fiats, she wasn’t enacting her own will
but embracing God’s will. She wasn’t exercising her own authority
but assenting with a full and joyful heart to her role in
God’s glorious plan of salvation.

I loved this kinder, simpler take on what is usually considered
an authoritative word.

Rather than the command ordered for the troops to go forth and conquer,
here we have a humble submission of the will…acquiescence to the
Great I AM–“Let it be done to me according to your will…”

In Mary’s submission…therein lies the reality of strength…our strength.
A holy segue from humble submission to Omnipotent Greatness.

Having watched and read about what is unfolding with our botched
withdrawal of Afghanistan, knowing that horrible things are currently
happening to individuals and families…knowing that our leadership
made an uncalculated fiat…
knowing that the Taliban has announced their own fiat…
conquer at all costs…
a fiat which stands in stalk contrast to Mary’s fiat to God…
humility and submission vs brutality or else.

What of a former President and his grandiose birthday?
What of Madame Speaker and her cohort Schumer
who proclaim that their inner circles should go out and party…
dance, drink and eat cake while they in turn pronounce their own fiat…
telling us, the simple populace, to mask up, fall in line or else.

What of the Border crisis?…
What of the Administration’s fiat that says to one and all, come then go
while never minding any sense of legality, a pandemic, or placement?

Fiat of folly or fiat of humble purpose..

Yep.
Fiat.
A decree.
Let it be done unto me according to YOUR will!

Luke 2:1-20 NIV
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census
should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while
Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord
shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy
for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off
and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him,
they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the
things they had heard and seen, which were just as they
had been told.

My heart shall become your heart (a re-post)

****I read a marvelous post yesterday over on Mel Wild’s site, In My Father’s House.
Here’s a link to the post:
https://melwild.wordpress.com/2021/06/29/compassion-more-than-all-our-doing/

Mel spoke about compassion—the compassion of Christ…
In his post, Mel examined the latest episode of The Chosen…the same episode
I had also discussed earlier in the week regarding Mary’s falling backwards…

As the storyline played out, we saw how Mary felt that Jesus would
never give her a second chance, not after she turned away from Him and that initial healing.
How could He?
He’d healed her once and here she’d turned away from that healing
and fell back into her old familiar and damaging ways.

But in that encounter between Savior and sinner, we see a deep
and unending compassion.

That touched a deep chord with me.

Falling and failing, over and over…
and yet we are only met, time and time again, with three simple words.
“I forgive you”

Here is a post I offered back in 2014.
7 years have passed…much has happened in my life
and in the life of our country in those past 7 years.

Yet the same need and desire remains….

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time,
so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work.
I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!!
I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman,
but to KILL IT! No half measures will do.
I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there;
rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me,
the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams.
Turn them ALL over to me,
give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image.
Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself.
My will, shall become your will.
My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(Orchid / Julie Cook / 2014)

Oh that this strong request of yours could only be answered with a swift response of “yes.”
That I could and would whole heartedly shout at the top of my lungs
YES!!
YES!
I will give you myself.
All of myself.
I shall hold nothing back.
I am yours.
Yes, take all of me.

Yet, this demand of yours, this most intimate demand from the purest essence of Love,
is meet by my hesitation, my doubts, my frozen in time inability to immediately scream “yes.”
I hesitate.
Why?
I stumble over the words.
I hold back.

You reassure me.
You make me a promise
You have proven the promise.
And yet, I balk.
The “I” must be broken
Why can’t I let go?
Why won’t the “I” let go?
Am I afraid of being broken?
Being broken by you would be so much better than remaining whole as the captive of “I”
Still I find the words unable to slip from my mouth.

You sense my hesitation.
You see my reluctance.
You take my hand.
Suddenly, within that single touch, there is a cosmic explosion which shakes the very foundation of my world.
At the very moment you touch me, there is something so overpowering, something so beautiful which takes places.
I have never felt this before.
A connection
A oneness
It’s as if the brokeness, which I never fully comprehended, is immediately made whole.

And just as quickly as our hands meet, I pull away.
I look away.
It’s all too much.
I can’t.
If you honestly knew, knew everything, you’d walk away
You should walk away.
Others are better than I.
Others have not done the things I have done.
The things I am ashamed for you to discover.
You really don’t want me.
You really don’t know me
You really don’t know. . .

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not,
for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.

(Isaiah 43:1-28)

The love song plays out,
You reveal everything I’ve hidden.
I am ashamed and want to turn away.
Yet you continue watching.
There is only acceptance in your eyes.
Pieces of a broken heart lay scattered on the floor.
You pick up the pieces, putting them back together,
handing me the final piece.

Again, You extend your hand.
You whisper my name.
“My heart shall become your heart” you whisper ever so gently–
“You will be mine and I will be yours” for all of eternity
Love lies bare and open between us.
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!
(Song of Solomon 4:1)
I hear those words flowing from your heart.
A heart that has broken for me.
“Yes”
“Yes”
The word now slowly falling from my mouth.
Take me as I am and make me yours.
All that was is suddenly no more.
I will give you my heart…
I want nothing more than for my heart to now become your heart…
as the last piece of the puzzle is finally put back in place.

The real enemy is already vanquished…for good

“But since the adversary does not cease to resist many,
and uses many and diverse arts to ensnare them,
that he may seduce the faithful from their faith,
and that he may prevent the faithless from believing,
it seems to me necessary that we also,
being armed with the invulnerable doctrines of the faith,
do battle against him in behalf of the weak.”

Justin Martyr (St. Justin),
Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection


(detail from Caravaggio’s The Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605)

I have always loved the works of Caravaggio—his play with dark, light and the juxtaposition of space.
Such skills helped to create a dramatic punctuation—effects found in many of his paintings.
Such skillful drama was only highlighted by Caravaggio’s own personal torment and
living the life of a rounder, rapscallion and wanted criminal.

Lots of symbology rests in this particular painting of The Madonna and Child with St. Anne


(Galleria Borghese, Rome)

An unusual image yet one that is both visceral and powerful.

I personally like the imagery of both mother and son, Mary and a young Christ,
each stomping the head of the snake.
It is an allegorical take on Christ’s victory over Satan.
And with Mary’s initial yes to God, she became privy to that very victory.

However it would indeed pierce, if not nearly breaking, her heart before there would be
that final Glory.

I can’t help but think about this image while watching our nation’s news play out in front of us.

With this second impeachment of former President Trump, as a taxpayer, I have been rather incensed.
Because if you are an able body with a pulse, you and I are paying taxes…
and these taxes of ours are helping to pay for political shenanigans.

The former President, along with us taxpayers, have been in this same spot not long ago.
It was a political circus act then, a wasteful black hole of time, energy and our money—
just like it was this past week.
A cheap and tawdry fictional paperback novel masquerading as a real political process.

So one would hope and think that with his having been voted back into normal private life,
that would be the end of our troubles with our rabid political leadership’s fraudulent
spending of ‘we the people’s’ money.
Yet sadly that has not the case.
Being returned to private life is not enough.

So the image of someone who is terrified of snakes,
who has taken a hoe to the head of said snake,
chopping off the head yet not being satisfied with the notion of the head being severed
and thus the snake being dead, continues to pound at and chop up the snake just to be
satisfied that that is indeed to end of the snake.

So don’t get me wrong— I’m not saying the former president is some sort of serpent,
contrary to what many may think.
And no, I’m not saying that there is a correlation to Jesus crushing Satan in any of this
political fiasco…it’s just that I can’t help but picture in my mind some crazed person
with hoe in hand, beating and chopping an obviously dead snake…adding an exclamation point
to the end of said snake…much like our political leaders—as in enough just isn’t enough.

However…the wonderful moral to this, as well as to all stories, is that politicians, snakes,
fiascos, lies, taxes, politics, republicans, democrats, presidents, pandemics, etc, all aside..
it that the victory, in the end, is indeed ours— Jesus has crushed Satan and in the
end we, both you and me, win.

So Jesus has no need to beat a dead horse—He’s already won… and in turn—so have we!

For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.

Deuteronomy 20:4

dying unto self

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich


(Vasari’s Annunciation / The Louvre / Julie Cook / 2011)

“The life of our flesh is the delight of sensuality;
its death is to take from it all sensible delight.
The life of our judgment and our will is to dispose of ourselves and what is ours,
according to our own views and wishes; their death, then,
is to submit ourselves in all things to the judgment and will of others.
The life of the desire for esteem and respect is to be well thought of by everyone;
its death, therefore, is to hide ourselves so as not to be known,
by means of continual acts of humility and self-abasement.
Until one succeeds in dying in this manner, he will never be a servant of God,
nor will God ever perfectly live in him.”

—St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, p. 126
An Excerpt From
Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery With the Saints

When I read these two quotes, my thoughts went immediately to that of The Annunciation.
That momentous moment in time when Mary willingly died unto self—
all in order to say a simple “yes” to God.

And so I went hunting for an Annunciation image that I had used in some previous post.
I opted for a more obscure image…not the typical Leonardo image.

I wandered back to 2015 and found this image by Vasari.
Curious as to what post I had written prompting me to use the image, I re-read
that 5-year-old post.

Imagine my surprise when reading the post and discovering that I was writing
about an issue that we, as a society, are still allowing to percolate and circulate throughout
our culture–that of white privilege and that of “white” images causing stress to
both whites and non-whites alike.

Irrationality…but more like silliness really.

Here is the story in a nutshell:

“Well it seems that upon a recent visit to the Met,
as this individual was viewing some paintings of the museum’s collection of several
Renaissance and Baroque masters depicting Jesus Christ,
this said individual suffered “personal stress” as the images contained,
typical of the time, images of a “white” Jesus.
This individual is now claiming that these images of a white Jesus are racist and should be removed”

I’ve included that post…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/whats-wrong-with-this-picture/

expectation, seeking and knocking

We may despair at scandals we hear about in the Church.
True reform may seem impossible. Beware the tempter! Rather than succumbing
to the despair and apathy to which the tempter seeks to lead us,
let us instead embrace God’s call to share in Christ’s sonship and participate
in his work of redemption…
Transformation is possible, but only to those who trust in him.

Michael Patrick Barber
from Salvation: What Every Catholic Should Know

“Mary remained with the donkey at the very entrance of the street while
Joseph sought a lodging in the nearest houses—in vain,
for Bethlehem was full of strangers, all running from place to place.
Joseph returned to Mary, saying that as no shelter was to be found there,
they would go on farther into the town. He led the donkey on by the bridle,
and the Blessed Virgin walked beside him. When they came to the beginning
of another street, Mary again stopped by the donkey,
and Joseph again went from house to house in vain seeking a lodging,
and again came sadly back. This happened several times, and the Blessed Virgin
often had long to wait.
Everywhere the houses were filled with people, everywhere he was turned away …
Joseph led the Blessed Virgin to [a] tree, and made her a comfortable seat
against its trunk with their bundles, so that she might rest while he
sought for shelter in the houses near. …
At first Mary stood upright, leaning against the tree.
Her ample white woollen dress had no girdle and hung around her in folds:
her head was covered with a white veil.
Many people passed by and looked at her, not knowing that the Redeemer
was so near to them.
She was so patient, so humble, so full of
hopeful expectation.
Ah, she had to wait a long, long time;
she sat down at last on the rug, crossing her feet under her.
She sat with her head bent and her hands crossed below her breast.
Joseph came back to her in great distress; he had found no shelter.
His friends, of whom he had spoken to the Blessed Virgin,
would hardly recognize him.
He was in tears and Mary comforted him.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, p.185
An Excerpt From
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary From the Visions of
Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

Prophets, St Matthias and the kneeling of the Church to Isalm


(“Saint Matthias” | Serra Brothers workshop)

Tuesday was the feast day of St Matthias–May 14th on the Gregorian calendar…
the calendar most of the world now follows.
However, our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters follow the Julian calendar
and so their commemoration of the feast day is August 9th.

But for our purposes today, for those of us who adhere to the Gregorian calendar,
we’ll just stick with May 14th.

St Matthias was the disciple that, following the death and Resurrection of Jesus,
and then that of his Ascension was voted on by Peter and the others to fill the void left
by the betrayal and subsequent suicide of Judas Iscariot.
(Acts 1:15-26)

It was the replacing of one who betrayed with one who remained faithful.
It was also a fulfilling of prophecy.

May 14th was also a day that I actually had time to catch the latest youtube episode of
Anglican Unscripted with US host Kevin Kallsen and our favorite rouge Anglican priest,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

Our dear friend actually started the segment by mentioning that their day’s discussion
was to be quite timely given the fact that it was the feast day of St Matthias.

After watching the episode, I understood the nod to the significance of St Matthias.
That being the replacing of betrayal with dedicated devotion.

A devotion that, in the face of severe trial and grave threat to life,
never wavered–one iota.

Those in the US, other than disheartened Episcopalians and Anglicans such as myself,
may not understand nor be interested in what a former British Anglican bishop has to say.
They may wonder why I continually reference the man.

So for those of you who wonder who in the heck I keep talking about, quoting or referencing,
in a Wikipedia and from his own bio nutshell, here is who is he is…
“Gavin Roy Pelham Ashenden (born 1954)
is a British Anglican clergyman.
He was a Chaplain to the Queen from 2008 until his resignation in 2017.
He was ordained in the Church of England, but left it in 2017.
That year was consecrated a missionary bishop by the Christian Episcopal Church,
a continuing Anglican jurisdiction outside of the Anglican Communion.”
On the Feast of St Michael and All Angels 2017,
the Archbishop of the Christian Episcopal Church announced that Dr. Ashenden
had been consecrated as a Missionary bishop to the UK and Europe.

But there is more to the man than a quick bio—

Bishop Ashenden knows music and its history, he has a law degree, he studied psychology
and theology, he is an accomplished and deeply published author, he has been a teacher,
preacher and even smuggler—smuggling Bibles into the communist Soviet Union.
He has served in small parishes and he has served a Queen.

He is keenly knowledgable about history be it the history of religions, governments or law.

In other words, he is a man who knows his stuff.

Yet because he knows “his” stuff, why should any of that matter to you, you might now be asking.

Well, because my friend, if you are one who considers themselves a Christian, as well as a member
of the Judaeo/ Christian democratic Western Civilization, Bishop Ashenden paints a grave yet
painfully honest picture of your very world…a truth that you need to familiarize yourself with
before you are caught like so many will be, blindsided.

Would I call Bishop Ashenden a prophet?

Perhaps.
Perhaps I would.

I do know that much of the modern-day world wonders why we have not heard from the
likes of such prophets like those from the days of old.

Those wizened voices who rose up most often from obscurity,
bending the ears of kings and warriors alike by foretelling things that were to be.
Those men who dreamed dreams and shared visions.

Not like a Nostradamus mind you, but more like a Jeremiah, Obadiah or an Isaiah,
or even a John The Baptizer.

I know I’ve been guilty of lamenting ‘where are the prophets?’
Where are those voices of Truth…?

But as I’ve pondered such a notion…it has dawned on me that the prophets are indeed
alive and well…they are found the world over and rest in the voices of men and women who
speak the Truth about Jesus Christ…His life, His teachings, His death, and His resurrection.

They are the ones who do not bend the Truth for convenience sake.
They are not the appeasers or the pleasers of an egocentric society or a materialistic world.

They are the men and women who literally die each and every day for their faith because their
trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ and in Christ alone.

They do not care about social norms, culturalisms, objectivism, convenience, or popularity.
They do not care what a world gone mad thinks of them.

They are not afraid.
For those who speak Truth are never afraid.

During Tuesday’s segment, host Kevin Kallsen made mention that he had seen on a
recent Yahoo News interview freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib,
who happens to be a practicing Muslim, state that the notion of the Holocaust gives her
“a calming feeling.”

Are you kidding???
Holocaust and clam used within the same sentence???

And yet Congress, along with mainstream media, has basically all ignored such a statement.

Who in their right mind has any sort of sense of calm or peace whenever thinking of the Shoah,
in other words, the Holocaust???

I’ve looked into the back story a bit and it appears that some feel her words were taken
out of context…but, I don’t agree.

And so as the segment’s conversation continues,
the good Bishop actually takes a closer look at Islam and that of the Chruch’s odd embrace
of a religion that has always stated that living
in harmony with the followers of the Cross will never be tolerated.

Bishop Ashenden notes that Mohammed’s Islam has, for the better part of 60 years,
been taught by theologians to be one of the three legs of the Abrahamic religions…
with the other two legs being that of Christianity and Judaism.
However our dear friend staunchly, and without hesitation, states that that thought
is absolutely not the truth.

Mohammed borrowed the Biblical characters such as Noah, Mary, and even Jesus,
in order to give credence to “his” religion.

And he denied that Jesus ever rose from the dead.

The good Bishop states that “Mohammed is nothing more than a dictator who demands submission.”
whereas Jesus Christ offers himself as a sacrifice.

Islam is not a cousin of our faith but on the contrary…runs counter to Christianity.

The troubling thing, however, is that we are today witnessing a global Chruch who wants to
appear friendly, accepting and even embracing of Islam.
Going so far as to inviting Muslim neighbors into a Chruch’s sanctuary in order to celebrate
the ending of Eid by covering up the crosses in order not to offend.

Is not covering the cross on the altar of the Chruch a turning of one’s back to Christ and all
He stands for in our faith?
Is that not a betrayal of convenience?

To follow Jesus means that we are not to be ashamed nor disassociate ourselves–ever.

Bishop Ashenden reminds us that we know more about Hell from Jesus than from anyone else Biblically.
He shares that Jesus was and is very specific about consequences…
So much so that He tells us that to deny Him, results in the opposite of Paradise…
it results in Hell.

Yet so many of us will argue that we are a polite society.
We don’t want to rock the boat.
We want to accommodate and be neighborly and friendly.

But to what extent?
At what cost?

Do we opt to turn a blind eye, ignoring public servants who speak positively about
egregious atrocities such as the Holocaust?

Do we rewrite God’s word so that His words now fit better into our current day and times?

Do we cover up and hide the key representative symbol of our faith,
thinking that others of differing faiths may find it offensive?

Evil is alive and well…yet no one likes to admit such let alone think about such.

Bishop Ashenden tells us that Christianity, and only Christianity, offers a defense against Evil.
Jesus cleanses the human heart of such Evil.
Yet the fingerprints of Satan are very much visible within and across the global collective Church.

Truth is being turned upside down as there is not enough regard for the truth in our
social culture.

And yet we are reminded…
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life…the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life…
(John 14:6)

Do not compromise.
Do not be ashamed.
Do not hide.
Do not deny.
Do not pretend.

when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….